(Masterpieces of American Literature)

This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald’s first novel, made him an enormously successful popular author when he was only twenty-three years old. The combination of romanticism and realism, mingled with a fresh and—for the time—sometimes startling depiction of college life, caught the attention of the reading public and made the novel representative of an entire generation.

This Side of Paradise is loose and episodic, a collection of vivid scenes which do not fuse into a well-structured novel. It is divided into two sections: “The Romantic Egotist” (the title of the novel’s first draft) and “The Education of a Personage.”

The first takes Amory Blame from his childhood through his years at Princeton University and concerns his intellectual and moral development.

Convinced that he has a great, if obscure, destiny, Amory is greatly influenced by a Catholic priest, Father Darcy, who awakens him to the reality and power of evil. Darcy is based upon Father Sigourney Fay, who exerted a comparable influence on Fitzgerald. In the novel, this moral and spiritual education is dramatized by incidents that appear supernatural, as when Amory is pursued by a diabolic figure through the streets of New York. Perhaps a remnant of Father Fay’s moralism, the sense of sin and the power of sex are mixed in Amory’s mind in an inextricable, if often confusing fashion.

The second section is restricted to one year, 1919, and concentrates on Amory’s character development, which it traces by following his adventures after service in World War I. As Fitzgerald had no experience of combat, he wisely omitted any actual description of Amory in the conflict. In book 2, Amory’s courtship of Rosalind Connage is ended after the sudden loss of his family fortune. Having...

(The entire section is 741 words.)

This Side of Paradise Summary

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The son of Stephen Blaine and Beatrice O’Hara Blaine, Amory grows up with money. He spends his early years traveling around the United States and Mexico in his father’s private railroad car. At fifteen, he leaves his Midwestern home to attend St. Regis, a preparatory school in New Jersey, where he concentrates on football and popularity. Shortly after enrolling, he meets Monsignor Darcy, with whom he has a number of intellectual conversations and with whom he corresponds on important issues. Darcy serves as both confidant and mentor to the maturing youth, who is thirty years his junior.

From St. Regis, Amory goes on to Princeton; his first two years there, like those at St. Regis, are devoted to making friends rather than to studying. Amory is successful in his effort, which culminates in his election to the prestigious Cottage Club. He does, however, begin to write for the Daily Princetonian. In his sophomore year, he easily wins a competition in the newspaper, and he is the most likely candidate for the editorship until his poor grades make him ineligible.

Among the friends he makes at Princeton is Thomas Parke D’Invilliers, whom Amory admires for his poetry in the Nassau Lit. D’Invilliers introduces Amory to many modern writers, among them William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and Algernon Charles Swinburne. Under D’Invilliers’s influence, Amory begins writing poetry. Thus, at Princeton he begins his love affair...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

This Side of Paradise Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Amory Blaine is the only child of an alcoholic mother and an absent father. As his mother’s companion, he spends his early childhood traveling and living in hotels. When Beatrice’s alcoholism results in a breakdown, Amory goes to live with an aunt and uncle in Minneapolis, where he resides for nearly two years. These years are encapsulated in the description of a party and first kiss shared with Myra St. Claire, and the pattern of Amory’s subsequent life is established as one of anticipation and disappointment. His fledgling character also emerges, as Amory assumes an aristocratic posture.

Amory is reunited with Beatrice at the family estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, before traveling east to attend prep school at St. Regis’s. After taking his entrance examinations, Amory visits his mother’s friend Monsignor Darcy in New York City. Darcy becomes a mentor and confidant of Amory. At St. Regis’s, where he spends two years from ages fifteen to seventeen, Amory begins badly but eventually distinguishes himself as a star quarterback, actor, and editor of the school paper, though when later he recalls his prep school years he remembers his failures more than his successes.

In 1913 at age seventeen, Amory enters Princeton University. In his freshman year, he lives with Kerry Holiday and Tom D’Invilliers and he begins a friendship with Alec Connage. Amory begins to write poetry and vows to make more of his abilities in his sophomore year. Most concerned with his own accomplishment, Amory is unaffected by outside events such as the beginning of World War I. He achieves success as a writer and actor in the fall of his sophomore year. In Minneapolis between terms, he begins a romance with Isabelle Borgé. At the end of his sophomore year, Amory and his classmates travel to New York City. On the return trip to Princeton, a...

(The entire section is 756 words.)

This Side of Paradise Summary

Book 1: The Romantic Egotist
The novel opens with a description of Amory Blaine’s mother Beatrice and her exciting life of...

(The entire section is 825 words.)

This Side of Paradise Chapter Summaries

This Side of Paradise Book 1, Chapter 1 Summary

This Side of Paradise cover image

Amory Blaine is the son of the “ineffectual” Stephen Blaine and the beautiful and intriguing Beatrice Blaine. Beatrice was born in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to a well-to-do family. She went to school in Rome, where she learned to love the culture of Europe. When she returned to America, she married Stephen and bore her only son, Amory. From the beginning, Amory and Beatrice were good companions. Traveling around the world, mother and son became inseparable. Beatrice introduced Amory to a former lover and now good friend, Monsignor Darcy. After his mother had a nervous breakdown, Amory was left with his aunt and uncle in Minneapolis for two years.

Amory’s experiences in Minneapolis are mixed. Though superior to the other boys in his class, Amory is seen as artificial and self-absorbed. He is disliked for the most part. His first kiss is with Myra St. Claire on the way to a bobbing party. He had been trying to impress her and arrived fashionably late, but it was too late to go with the rest of the children to the party. Myra had stayed behind to wait a bit. They went to the party together then, but Amory pulled Myra to one side and surreptitiously kissed her. Immediately he is disgusted with the whole incident. He wanted to go away and never see Myra again. She asks him to kiss her again, but he tells her that he does not want to. She becomes angry and threatens to tell her mother that he kissed her. When Myra’s mother appears, however, she does not say anything.

In Minneapolis, Amory becomes quite an outdoorsman, hunting with his dog. His schooling ruins his French, and his reading habits change for the worse, he feels. He tries to be a lady’s man and collects locks of hair from several different girls. He dreams of becoming something great—but never of being great.

When Beatrice returns after two years, she takes over the remaking of her son back into the gentleman she wants him to be. She tells Amory of her breakdown. Amory is struck with shame at her appearance of weakness. Amory tells Beatrice he wants to be sent away to a prep school, St. Regis, in Connecticut. After Amory takes his admissions exam, he goes to visit Monsignor Darcy. Their relationship becomes that of a father and son.

At St. Regis, Amory is considered arrogant and conceited. He is also unhappy. He comes up with a classification of boys: the Slicker is clean and intelligent, popular and accommodating; the Big Man is a problem seeker and is careless. At the end of his time at St. Regis, Amory decides that he will go to Yale; he has bad memories of his prep school days.

This Side of Paradise Book 1, Chapter 2 Summary

At Princeton, Amory meets his roommates, Burne and Kerry Holiday. The three live off campus because there is not much for freshmen to do on the campus. While Amory enjoys himself in college, he realizes the social distinctions are created by the strong to protect the weak who cater to the strong as well as to keep out the “almost strong.” Intent on becoming a big man on campus, Amory joins the football team but eventually must drop out after a rather severe injury. Instead he joins the board of the Daily Princetonian newspaper, thinking this will give him some popularity. It does not, but he vows that he will make his mark during his sophomore year.

Amory befriends Tom d’Invilliers, an intellectual who...

(The entire section is 493 words.)

This Side of Paradise Book 1, Chapter 3 Summary

While petting with Isabelle, Amory hurts her neck with his shirt stud. They begin to argue, and Amory realizes that he really has no affection for her at all. Isabelle claims that Amory is too conceited. He breaks off his relationship with her. He returns to Princeton the next morning.

Having failed a math class the previous year, Amory arrives at Princeton early in September to take a tutoring class and a make-up exam. He knows that, should he fail the exam, he will forfeit his position on the Princetonian board as well as jeopardize much of his chance for success. However, he does not study and therefore fails. Rather than blame his own laziness, Amory feels that it was his destiny to fail. This failure has...

(The entire section is 458 words.)

This Side of Paradise Book 1, Chapter 4 Summary

During Amory’s last year at Princeton, Burne Holiday leads a campaign to rid the college of all clubs because they are too reminiscent of the class system. His reading of Tolstoy and Whitman has led him to embrace a more socialistic point of view. Although Amory admires Burne, he cannot bring himself to support this viewpoint. Like his feelings for Humbird, Amory’s admiration of Burne is centered on his earnestness. Sitting up and talking with Burne about the clubs, he learns to agree with him, but he does not feel as strongly about it as he did as a younger student. Burne loses prestige among the student body, but this does not bother him. Burne withdraws more and more from the college social life. While Amory disapproves of...

(The entire section is 476 words.)

This Side of Paradise Interlude Summary

In January 1919, Monsignor Darcy writes a letter to Amory, who is now a second lieutenant in the 171st Infantry on Long Island. Monsignor asks Amory only to let him know that he is alive. He also needs to write him to rail against the stupidity of people in wartime. He tells Amory that this war is the end of the world as he knew it. Amory and his generation are growing up much harder than the older generations did. Monsignor confesses to Amory that he has long imagined that Amory is his son. There is so much resemblance between the two of them that Monsignor imagines they are distantly related. Like Amory’s shipping out to Europe, Monsignor is off to Rome. He has written a “keen” for Amory, a lament for the youth that has...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

This Side of Paradise Book 2, Chapter 1 Summary

It is the February after the end of the war. In a townhouse in New York, the sister of Alec Connage (Amory’s friend and now roommate) is preparing for her debut. Written in the style of a play, the action describes the spoiled Rosalind as she makes herself the center of everyone’s lives. Amory is arriving at the home this night, and Mrs. Connage warns Alec that there will be precious little time to make him welcome because all the attention must be on Rosalind. Alec describes Amory as temperamental, which peaks Rosalind’s interest. Rosalind’s sixteen-year-old sister, Cecelia, is cynical about the whole “coming out” business but secretly admires all the drama surrounding it.

Amory unwittingly stumbles into...

(The entire section is 473 words.)

This Side of Paradise Book 2, Chapter 2 Summary

For three weeks following his breakup with Rosalind, Amory descends into a drunken debauchery. He drifts from bar to bar and avoids sobriety. He meets several of his old classmates but refuses to talk of the end of his engagement. He stays in rooms at the different bars and does not go back to the apartment. He considers suicide but not seriously enough to stop drinking and do it. A woman begs him to take her home, but the man she came with interferes; the conversation almost ends in a fight.

After three weeks, Amory goes to the advertising agency at which he works. He confronts his employer and quits. He hated the work and did not feel that he was paid enough or would he ever make any headway in business there. Four...

(The entire section is 535 words.)

This Side of Paradise Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary

Amory afterward judges his affair with Eleanor as the last time that evil crept close to him under the mask of beauty. Her wildness fed his imagination along the paths of adventure, and this is the last time he viewed romance as an adventure.

Amory meets Eleanor one day when he is bored at his uncle’s home in Maryland and goes walking in the country, reciting poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. He finds himself lost because of poor directions he was given. A storm begins and he heads for shelter. He hears a voice singing a poem by the French poet Verlaine and calls out. On being asked his identity, Amory says he is Don Juan. The voice is thrilled and invites him up on top of the haystack where she is taking shelter. Clambering...

(The entire section is 493 words.)

This Side of Paradise Book 2, Chapter 4 Summary

Upon his return to New York, Amory goes to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to stroll along the boardwalk. He is hailed from someone in a racing car—it is Alec Connage. Alec is with another man and two young women. Amory is invited to go along to find a place to drink (despite Prohibition). He climbs in beside Jill, who calls him Doug Fairbanks (the swashbuckling movie actor). Alec and Amory start to reminisce about their classmates who were killed, but Alec decides he does not want to talk about them.

Alec asks Amory to do him a favor. He and the others have booked hotel rooms, but the other man has to leave. Alec asks if Amory would take his room. Amory agrees as long as he can have it immediately. Amory goes to the hotel...

(The entire section is 416 words.)

This Side of Paradise Book 2, Chapter 5 Summary

Amory stands under the glass portcullis of a theater, too poor to go inside to get out of the rain. He hears the sounds of the people exiting the matinee. The rain makes him think of the people who, like himself, have no money to give themselves an adequate life. He realizes that he detests poor people. Although poverty might have once had some romantic appeal, now it is just rotten. He believes it is better to be rich and corrupt than poor and innocent.

Amory begins an internal conversation analyzing his situation. He has only twenty-four dollars plus the property at Lake Geneva, which he plans to keep. He is confident that he will be able to live somehow, because people always do in books, and he always manages to do...

(The entire section is 522 words.)